Sometimes you can jump into a series at someplace other than the beginning and feel right at home. That was my experience with Ash and Bone. Harvey is skilled enough to fill in background information unobtrusively and at the point when the reader needs it (as opposed to dropping a clunky recap of the protagonist’s life, loves, and proclivities into Chapter 2).
In this second book in the series, retired Detective Inspector Frank Elder is called back from the hinterlands of Cornwall by double trouble: his daughter, the victim of a horrible crime from the previous book, is off the rails and shacked up with a possible drug dealer, and a detective sergeant has been murdered.
Frank is recruited by a cold case unit that employs retired cops to look at cases that are going nowhere. He’s asked to look at the detective sergeant’s murder investigation, which has stalled because of an almost total lack of evidence. The investigation leads back into the recent past, and then the more distant past, as Frank and the investigative team try to figure out why and by whom the detective was killed. Years of wrongdoing, much of it by dirty cops, seems to have come to a head and given the good guys a chance to put away multiple bad guys. In the meantime, Frank is also trying to rescue daughter Katherine from her drugs-and-boyfriend trouble and repair their relationship. In the process, he discovers the depth of the damage caused by the unspeakable crime of which she was a victim.
The plots and subplots wind around, flirt with each other, and are wrapped up nicely at the end. In multiple threads of the story, Harvey illustrates how people who act purely out of self-interest can devastate the lives of those around them.
Harvey’s other series character, Charlie Resnick, appears late in the book and plays a part in the investigation. Since I haven’t read the Resnick books, I’m not sure if that’s a natural outgrowth of the story or an effort to get Resnick fans to jump to the Elder series.
Harvey’s characters are interesting and his dialogue feels real. I must confess that I’m a sucker for most things English, and I found that Harvey’s locations and details about life in the UK hit the spot. The story moves forward a little slowly, partly because there’s a lot of dogged police work involved and partly because of the father-daughter angle, and it was never clear to me how the murderer managed to leave almost no evidence at the crime scene. But all in all, this is a satisfying read, and I look forward to reading Harvey’s other books.